Team Big Shot is having conversations with several organizations as possible subjects for upcoming projects. Getting approval to make a Big Shot photograph can be a complicated process. Getting permission to photograph Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) home of the Dallas Cowboys NFL football team took more than 15 months. If we are successful in these conversations, one of the next Big Shot projects will feature an important and nationally known organization. Because of the challenges of working out of town, we are also considering a local photograph, too. More will follow as details become confirmed.
Producing a Big Shot has become very complicated. In the earliest years, it was much more simple. We approached a subject that we were interested in photographing. If approved, we picked a date and invited members of the School of Photography to attend. There was a press release that would find its way into the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and we were off and running. Occasionally we found ourselves on TV. Attendance was in the range of 35 – 75 people and we made four exposures using 4 x 5 film cameras. No contracts or liability insurance was required. 29 projects later, everything is complicated and full of negotiations.
Getting Permission – City of Rochester
When Big Shot became interested in photographing the High Falls for the 29th photograph, we approached the City of Rochester in June 2013. At the first of many meetings, Jim McIntosh and Margaret Reichert from the City met with Otto Vondrak, Ron Goldberg, Willie Osterman, and Michael Peres from RIT to discuss what would be required to photograph the High Falls during the upcoming winter. Gaining permission was actually easy, but no date decided for a variety of reasons. Big Shot had partnered with the City several times in the last 2 decades and everyone at the meeting was clear what would lie ahead. At that meeting, the general goals for the photograph were identified. The photograph would include The Falls in front of a darkened city. We hoped to include a train and pursued a date hoping for a Rochester winter scene. Otto Vondrak in particular knew everything imaginable about trains and was invited to bring his expertise to help us get a train onto the bridge.
Jim McIntosh the City of Rochester engineer shows Willie Osterman and Ron Goldberg the Atrium.
The point of view that was selected for the photograph June 2013
As planning progressed and details flushed out, the City was asked to darken the Genesee River corridor from the falls to the Broad Street aqueduct by turning off all street and sidewalk lighting along the river. The city was also asked to turn off lights on Cataract Street and the Pont De Rennes Bridge, where most volunteers who would attend would stand when lighting the falls and gorge. There were countless individuals who played critical roles from the City including Ned Kelly and Maurice Carter. We know there were others and we apologize those who were not mentioned here.
- Dropped 2 light poles directly in the field of view
- Moved a HUGE snow pile that found its way into the foreground
- Darkened the Genesee River corridor creating a clear line of sight to the Erie
- Turned off 114 street lights
- Worked with the Manager of the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside to
turn off all exterior hotel lighting along the riverside of the building
- Worked with Bob Lindsay, owner 40 Mill to turn on his building’s interior lighting
- Opened the Browns Race Visitors Center for public restrooms
- Dialogued with security at the Riverside Convention Center to gain access to a
landing adjacent to the Broad Aqueduct
- Awarded the Project a Special Events Permit
- Promoted the event
The 15 foot snow pile
At the conclusion of the event we received the following statement from Rochester’s newly elected Mayor Lovely A. Warren shared “The City of Rochester was proud to partner with RIT, Nikon, Profoto, CSX Railroad, and RG&E on the 29th RIT Big Shot project. “I’d like to thank all of the photographers who helped us capture the beauty of High Falls, an often-overlooked gem in the center of our city.”
Managing a Water Falls – Rochester Gas & Electric
Immediately following the first meeting with the City, we were introduced to Hugh Ives manager of Rochester Gas & Electric’s Fossil/Hydro Operations. RG&E oversees the flow of water over the Falls, which plays a role in flood control and the production of hydroelectric power. Right from the start of the planning, we wanted RG&E to be aware of our project in the hopes that they might have suggestions. During the course of the planning, we were introduced to Dan Hucko, the director of public relations who took us through the process of including RG&E as a strategic partner. We spent a lot of time watching the flow over the falls during all seasons leading up to the event. We observed flow rates ranging from 300 to 1000cfs. The flow of water over the falls is calculated using cubic feet per second. As we proceeded with our planning, the company’s hydroelectric operations team agreed to augment the flow of water over the falls for the photograph as well as to turn off all lights on its 2 dams in the river. On the night of the photograph – and because of air temperatures, presence of ice on the falls, steam/mist production and uniformity of water from the left to right – RG&E officials created a CFS of 1000. They also allowed us to use 12 – one million candlepower flashlights. RGE employee Al Volo was invaluable in trouble shooting and can be seen in the gorge with his light at the base of the falls.
Mark S. Lynch, president and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E shared, “RG&E and our parent company, Iberdrola, have long histories of supporting innovation, education and the arts in the communities where we serve,” said. “We’re proud to support the Rochester Institute of Technology and the 2014 Big Shot which cleverly combines all three of these elements in a unique way.”
Getting a Train- CSX Transportation, Inc.
From the moment Big Shot became interested in making this photograph of the Falls, putting a train on the bridge was priority. There was never the illusion that it would be easy. Conversations began with CSX Transportation, Inc. in mid summer. Initially we approached CSX to transport historic trains to the event from 2 local railroad museums however it was determined that the conditions of the vintage New York Central trains were a risk to move in the dead of winter. After sustained and many enthusiastic conversations Robert Rohauer, manager of community affairs and safety and Deborah Lamir from corporate CSX communications, it was agreed (in late December) that the CSX railroad would provide two new locomotives and a string of intermodal cars for the photo. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based Corporation also agreed to hold all rail traffic during the time of the photograph’s exposure. For the final exposure, it was also agreed to move the locomotive to create movement in the final image. There are always challenges to plan Big Shots and we always pursue the ideal. Receiving the commitment to include a train in the event was really a special component. It ranks right up there with the best Big Shot magical outcomes over the years.
Following the event the railroad shared, “CSX shares a long and rich history with the Greater Rochester area and we are honored to continue that legacy by supporting the 2014 Big Shot,” said Robert Rohauer, manager of community affairs and safety, CSX. “Through innovative projects like these, Rochester Institute of Technology is molding the leaders of tomorrow. CSX is proud to be part of this project and to move the things America needs every day in the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible.”
Big Shot Strategic Partners – Nikon
A longtime sponsor of the event, Nikon Inc., was among the corporate supporters again this year. Nikon loaned high-end photographic equipment and provided memento prints for all who attended. Nikon Corp began its relationship with the Big Shot in 2006. Kristine Bosworth, Bill Pekala and others have provided excellent guidance and significant financial support to assist the Project since the beginning of this partnership. Recently retired Bill Pekala, general manager for Nikon Professional Services shared “It’s been a privilege to help the Big Shot photo project evolve over the years. This concept of ‘painting with light’ is special. Nikon continues to partner with RIT on the Big Shot because it is a unique educational event that brings people together across an entire community to make one photograph. This is our way of giving back to the photographic communities across the United States.”
At the 2013 PhotoExpo show in NYC, Profoto agreed to become a partner of the Big Shot project. We were all curious how Profoto electronic flash equipment could be used to in this most challenging environment. Distance, temperature and the vast space would challenge any equipment. Profoto provided six powerful battery-operated electronic flash systems that were used to light the falls and train and also provided a grant that was used to underwrite the costs associated with the city’s work in turning off 114 lights.
Mark Rezzonico President Profoto USA and Bill Gratton Regional Sales Manager-East shared after the event, “We have watched the Big Shot Project for years with genuine appreciation for the innovative outcomes it achieves. We are so very excited to finally be part of the Big Shot and look forward to the future!”
Lighting the Details including Erie Canal Aqueduct
As the planning proceeded, we realized the historic Erie Canal Aqueduct would be visible in the back of our scene because of the elevated camera location. Illuminating details in our pictures remain important objectives for Big Shots. Knowing this gem would be included, we asked RIT photography Professors Denis Defibaugh, William Sndyer, Doug Manchee, Gunther Cartwright and Don Cochran as well as a band of hand picked students to light up the circa 1840 aqueduct. This structure – more than a half-mile from where the camera was located – required this team operate in total isolation from the event and we are very appreciative of the work they did. This team communicated with the photographers using walkie-talkies and cell phones. In this digital era of Big Shot, our cameras are operated tethered to a computer and we share our images as they come off from the camera onto the computer with the Team using a screen sharing application, ScreenLeap.
Above, horses draw a barge across the Genesee River on the Erie Canal aqueduct. Entry Photo: Entry Photo Credit: Democrat and Chronicle archives circa late 1800’s
The Support of the Campus
RIT has been incredibly supportive of Big Shot for decades. Across the campus, people continually offer assistance and ideas and their participate. They help us raise funds, they broadcast the opportunity to participate, they attend, and they provide an environment where we can do our work. CIAS IT services is a special resource for us and they help us do our work in new ways for each project. Every project is different. Jay Sullivan, Rob Henderson, and Brad Coudriet collectively have helped us find solutions to technical challenges such as screen sharing and creating a better website amongst many others. Thank you guys.
Working with RIT’s office of Alumni Relations has given Big Shot a whole new opportunity and audience. The College’s alumni relations officer Ron Goldberg has been nothing short of remarkable in all he does to make our work possible and inclusive. He attends every planning meeting and connects the project with those that can be helpful. He coordinates the alumni functions and maybe Big Shot biggest groupie. During the fall of 2013 we learned our 28th project won an award for alumni relations.
Several years ago, Photographic Technology professor Nanette Salvaggio was approached with the idea of using 1st year photo students as key participants for extra credit. She embraced the idea immediately and each year is assigned something special to light and accomplish. In this photograph, the class lit the train and they did a fantastic job. Nanette developed ways to track student participate and these kids then mature and take on new roles as they become upperclassmen.
There are not enough words of appreciation to share for the faculty, staff and students of the School. Each year for as long as I can remember, The School comes together to support this work. The list of participants is very long and could never be complete but we consider ourselves fortunate to have so many associates who step up and offer assistance when the task seems formidable.
Debbie Kingsbury is a person everyone should know and have on their team. She is a tireless worker and incredibly helpful. She creates ways for students to attend and participate. She has done this for years and is a true ambassador of our project. We believe she has attended more than 15 Big Shots. When we travel she does the logistics. She helps us raise monies and more importantly is a Big Shot.
Lisa Deromanis is the person who helps us keep track of all the details. She mails prints to participants, she purchases things, makes reservations and orders pizza for the students, communicates to students, alums and so many others. She ensures we get it right. She is the project go between for budgetary issues, reserving buses, buying tents, hats and other swag amongst many other details. we are fortunate she enjoys the detail work.
Photography students are truly gems. They are dedicated, passionate and very skilled. We are fortunate to be able to work with these kids every day. Dan Wang and Robert Deitchler are 2 such individuals. In each phase of our work students have played instrumental roles. Dan has produced 3 videos chronicling the making of Big Shot photographs in his time at RIT. Rob participated in lighting evaluation testing and more importantly profiled the final image for printing. Griffin Kettler assisted the Profoto team along with Mike Dear and Bill Gratton. This list could gone on and on including Lindsay Quandt and her friend who brought a 4 x 5 camera for a prop included in the foreground. Their contributions were invaluable.
A short video produced by Dan Wang chronicling the event
Rich Kiley and University News gives our project a voice. For every project there are so many details to share. The who, what, why, when and where. Rich’s insights and those of his predecessors have helped allow Big Shot to become an international event. Media placements always surprise us and they are all the direct outcomes of his work. He insights about how to hook media has been invaluable as we pick dates and strategies
At 7:10pm, February 9, 2014 the last and fourth of our 30-second exposures was completed and the event was over. Ten months of planning was required for an activity that lasted less than a 30 minutes. Just Amazing! The success of Big Shot is built solely on contributions from everyone and importantly from our strategic partners. It truly does take an Army to make a Big Shot photograph, a true community event. Everyone plays a role, big and small. This Post has been created to acknowledge the countless contributions and mostly invisible people who do the heavy lifting for Big Shot. A heartfelt thank-you to all. If we have forgotten you, please forgive us for the omission. It was not intentional.